Monday, 22 July 2013

Yarra Valley Wine Tour

The Bookworm's mum came for a visit this week and so it was necessary (and a terrible hardship) to show her the Yarra Valley, Victoria's most famous wine region.

The problem with cellar door tastings is that someone usually has to drive which significantly reduces their ability to fully appreciate the cellar doors. Of course one can spit the wine out but that would be like a work day so it was the Australian Wine Tour Co. to the rescue. This was the third time I have been on their Yarra Valley tour and it is always brilliant and very very good value. For $110 (or winter special of $99) you get picked up from Melbourne city, driven to 4 wineries for tastings, lunch is included as is a glass of sparkling with cheese to finish- more on that later.

So, we began the day at Yering Station, where Victoria's first vineyard was planted by a couple of Scots in 1838. It is a stunning winery with beautiful buildings, a restaurant and accommodation and worth spending more time at, but on this occasion I was just there for the wine.

The cellar door is housed in the original winery building.

That's Dirk, the tour guide, on the left

We were given an bit of an introduction to wine tasting and then we got down to the serious business. Bookworm's mum (Madame Bookworm) is a fan of white wine and is still a bit sceptical about reds so she tasted a lot of the whites they had on offer while the Bookworm and I went straight to the Single Vineyard 'flight'.

What I love about Yering Station is that they really do have something for everyone. We got to indulge our wine nerds while Madame Bookworm worked her way through the whites and bravely sampled some of the reds. We ended up buying a delicious sangiovese that she had liked, a very lovely Coombe farm Chardonnay and a very splurgy 2010 Reserve Shiraz Viognier.

Next up Balgownie Estate.

Bubbles on arrival

We were guided through about 7 of their wines and invited to come back after lunch for further tasting. Lunch was at Balgownie Estate's "Rae's Restaurant", I had a very fabulous fish and chips but I didn't take a picture 'cause really it is all about the wine. Bookworm and I went back for more tasting and left with another 4 bottles.

Nest stop Yering Farm.

Yering Farm occupies the site of another of the very early Victoria Wineries, Yeringa Cellars.
I didn't take many pictures because I was too excited. This is possibly one of my favourite Yarra wineries. I first discovered this place on the same tour in late 2010 when their Cabernet Merlot rocked my world. I remember clunking back to Brisbane on a Jetstar flight with many (OK, 5) bottles of wine in my hand luggage. Yering Farm is very much a boutique winery, they don't really distribute in a big way which is the only reason they aren't well-known because the winemaker, Alan Johns, is seriously good at making interesting, complex and just plain delicious wines at a very reasonable price. We clunked away with another 5 bottles.

Last stop Domaine Chandon.

Such a pretty winery. This place is also very interesting if you are learning about wine. They have it all set up to teach you about wine-making and in particular how champagne is made (Méthode tradionelle or Méthod Champenoise). Dirk ran through it with us.

And you can see parts of the equipment used in the process

Oh no, spilt wine!!

The Riddling Room sounds like something out of Harry Potter and it is almost as magical. The wines in here are some of the premium ones produced that are still hand-riddled.

In Champagne production (or other sparklings using the traditional method), after the secondary fermentation, during which the wine becomes bubbly, the lees (the expired yeast) is left in the bottle to impart some lovely toasty flavours to the wine. This then needs to be removed in a process called disgorging (a blog post for another day). Riddling racks hold the bottles at a 45 degree angle and every day (in Australia, every 2nd day in Champagne) the bottles are given a slight shake and a turn and put back in the rack with a gradual increase in the angle of the bottle until all the lees are settled in the top. This takes 2 weeks here or 8-10 weeks in Champagne. The yeast is then removed leaving the wine crystal clear.

Enough theory, on to the tasting.......

We were given a choice of the dry, sweet or red style of sparkling and then left to enjoy it with a beautiful view and some cheese.

Naturally Bookworm and I went and did a tasting afterwards and left with 4 more bottles, interestingly only one of them sparkling (The Tasmanian- amazing!)

Me with half the back seat of the bus filled with wine
 When we got back to our drop-off point at peak-hour taxis were sadly lacking. This was the only time we regretted the volume of the purchase, but we got it all home safely on the tram with only a few strange looks.

The Stash!!

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